Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 Common Errors Formatting an eBook

So, you've decided to e-Publish your masterpiece. Here are ten common pitfalls to avoid when formatting your manuscript for upload to Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook pubit, or Smashwords.

1. Manual tabs. Take them all out and replace by setting a first line automatic indent of .3-.5.

2. Standard headers.  You added your name and the page number when you submitted to agents or publishers. Delete it all.  You don't need page numbers with an eReader.

3. Double spacing.  Single spacing is preferred.

4. Multiple styles.  Change everything to "Normal" style except for chapter titles which should be "Heading" style. 

5. Too large font size.  10 point is large enough with 11 or 12 for title and chapter headings.

6. Unconventional fonts.  For best results use something that translates well into HTML like Times New Roman or Verdana.  

7. Extra paragraph returns.  Also, no paragraph returns between paragraphs unless you want a purposeful break and never at the end of a line.

8. Auto-generated Your Table of Contents.  Instead hyperlink each heading to manually build the TOC.

9. Tables or Columns to format text.  A disaster waiting to happen.  Try to remove them.

10. Margin size greater than 1 inch all around.  Don't do it. You won't like the results.

I hope these are helpful to first timers.  Any other tips from veteran ePubbers out there?  


  1. I used the Smashwords formatting guide and it was a doddle - if you do it right for Smashwords, it usually works out with very few issues for Kindle too.

    Basically, you want to strip out as much 'automatic' formatting as possible, so copy your document into something like Notepad, turn the auto format options off in Word, and then paste your document back into Notepad. Your text is now stripped for formatting and ready to be bent to your will...

  2. This are useful... Thanks. Formatting is something I still have to learn more about.

  3. I'm in the process of doing it now via the Smashwords guide. Thanks for the extra help!
    10pt font, you say? I was planning on 12pt.

  4. Now that's news I can use. Thank you Gen!

  5. Icy, I agree but it takes some time before you get confirmation back from Smashwords if there is a problem. I recommend following the guide but then using an application like Calibre to test out your ePub and Mobi formats before uploading. Once you upload, it is "for sale" and you don't want anyone to purchase a poorly formatted book.

    Ryan - eReaders can make the font larger if it is too small for someone but the conversion engine seems to increase the font size anyway. I used 10 and it looked average. (I read numerous books on my kindle to compare)

    Cathy and Austin - I'm glad I could help!

  6. Thanks for the advice! This is great.

  7. G.P.,
    Thank you for the feedback.
    My Smashwords manuscript looks good.
    My only issue now is that new chapters do not begin on a new page, which was sorta what I'd envisioned.
    How do you handle this?
    Do you like new chapters to begin on a new page?
    As it is, the eye IS drawn to continue reading, which could be a good thing.

    Thank you!

  8. Hi Ryan, Different eReaders respond differently when it comes to page breaks but what worked for me is to start each chapter with the word "Chapter" bolded, underlined, header style. Insert a Pagebreak and paragraph returns before the Chapter heading. At the end of the chapter, insert two paragraph returns before the next pagebreak and so on.

    (Hope this helps)

  9. All things I'm worried about for my eventual e-publishing...

    Little confused by #9 - are you saying tables and charts have to be out entirely, or just that you should remove them as you're formatting and add them last?

  10. GP,
    I fiddled with the formatting extensively last night and uploaded it to the kindle kdp app, as it generates an immediate preview of how the eBook will appear on the kindle. I discovered that putting a page break at the end of each chapter creates perfect separation of chapters. Two hard returns above the "Chapter #" put it about an inch down the page. Two more returns created nice spacing for the actual title and beginning of the text/by line.

    I've been waiting about 15 hours for SmashWords to generate my new eBook. Will post again with results; hopefully it looks as good after going through their MeatGrinder as it did for Kindle.

    Thanks again for your help and insight.

  11. Hey John, my understanding is if you want tables and charts in your ebook you have to save them as a picture and then insert them into the text inside a frame. So, it can be done if you have a reason to have it. What I was referring to more is that some people will use a table to position normal text. Like maybe one of their characters send an email and they have the email in a table so that the could make it appear the way they wanted it to on the page. This will not work (unless you make it a picture) and it is much better, easier, what have you, to use the formatting palette to achieve the desired results.

  12. The blog is very good!

  13. Great tips!

    But I have a couple questions about reformatting everything to normal:

    1) Does that mean no 'first-line' indents, or do you retain them?

    2) What happens to italisized text?

    Thanks for the info!

  14. No! you should have first line indents - just don't add them manually. Instead, selct the entire document and use the paragraph formatting feature to auto indent the first line. Italicized test will remain italicized. No need to change it.


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